Bayville Golf Club collaborates to protect the environment

The club partners with organizations to ensure a healthy watershed

J. Cutler Robinson Jr., CGCS
Bayville Golf Club, Virginia Beach, Va.
Publication date: June 2007

Bayville Golf ClubBayville Golf Club is an 18-hole golf course built in the early 1990s. Situated on the banks of the Lynnhaven River, the golf course is within two miles of the Chesapeake Bay. A former dairy farm, the 265 acre-property has more than one mile of estuary shoreline. Simply stated, estuary is the ocean’s inlet into the lower end of the river.  Protecting this shoreline and the adjacent waterway is integral to the club’s success. From the onset of construction, we met with local and regional environmental leaders for direction and counsel on environmental issues. Their inclusion opened a two-way communication that has continued to this day.

An environmental philosophy

Bayville Golf ClubOur commitment to the environment originated with the founding members of the club. Without their steadfast leadership and direction, the level of cooperation and results could never have occurred. Bert Crawford, founding member and green chair from 1995-2003, explained the club’s environmental philosophy:

“Members of Bayville Golf Club have a mutual respect for the property’s immediate surroundings as much as the maintenance of the grounds itself. Environmentally friendly plantings were and continue to be a prerequisite for preserving the ecosystem of the adjoining tributaries which lead to major waterways. Bayville has also been relentless in preserving the area’s natural habitat."

In fact, the Bayville Golf Club is considered such an environmental success that the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay included the course in its recent Lynnhaven River BayScapes tour. The alliance, a not-for-profit watershed group with offices in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, has worked for 25 years to educate residents about preventing pollution.

Enhancing the environmental benefits on the course

Bayville Golf ClubDuring the course’s construction, Billy Mills, BayScapes project director from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, made site visits and offered suggestions on how to enhance the environmental benefit the course would have to the Lynnhaven River. Environmental consultant Mary Heinricht steered the club through the permitting processes with ideas and goals that were not only met, but exceeded required environmental regulations. Architects considered their environmental recommendations and incorporated them into the design of the course. From the lake drainage system that keeps creek marshes healthy to native trees, shrubs and colorful wildflower meadows planted along the course, Bayville Golf Club has kept both golfers and nature in mind.

Innovative designs

Environmental tours showcase BayScaping in lieu of landscaping, which promotes ways of keeping fertilizers and other chemicals from running off into the Chesapeake Bay.

Bayville Golf ClubAccording to Billy Mays, of Richmond for the Alliance, the golf course was cited for its “innovative and exemplary planning and design.” “Most people don't think of golf courses as being an environmental showcase,'' Mills said. “Successful golf course management includes extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Mays said Bayville is radically different. “From the beginning, concerns with nutrient runoff were addressed, including the planting of warm-season grasses and native grasses to reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides,” he said.


Jeremy Beech, Bayville’s golf course superintendent, has carried on the course’s established tradition through his work with Virginia Tech. He conducted a study on the potential benefit of phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the process of using plants to clean waterways. Floating water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes) can be used in storm water and irrigation ponds as biological filters to absorb excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, and improve water quality. Hyacinths grew rapidly in containment corrals on the irrigation pond on the fifth hole. After summer growth, the hyacinths can be harvested, dried, and spread over the turf. This furthered cycling nutrients through the turf and reduced their runoff. Currently expanded methods of growing the hyacinths in areas contained by a turbidity barrier are being explored.

Environmental efforts

Bayville Golf ClubGeorge S. Rhodes, green committee chairman, supports the research.

“Concern for the environment has been a major consideration in all activities at Bayville Golf Club since ground was broken to build the course,” Rhodes said. "We have actively participated in studies with Virginia Tech on phytoremediation in an effort to develop information to help other golf courses improve their relationship with the environment."

Bayville worked with Lynnhaven River Now, a not-for-profit river group. Civic and business leaders looked within the community for volunteers who had experience and knowledge restoring river ecosystems. Committees were formed to research specific areas of interest. They included:

  • Buffer restoration
  • Clean boating and marina
  • Education
  • Oyster restoration
  • Public relations and marketing
  • Special events
  • Water quality
  • Public affairs

Buffer restoration

The buffer restoration committee spearheaded the direction for plant selection and landscaping. They offered guidance for all plant health care management techniques within the entire watershed.The committee worked with Susan French, committee chair and Extension Agent for Virginia Tech, to develop planting guidelines and lists of recommended plant materials. Working with the plant health care specialist, city engineers, and planners, the committee developed brochures that are easy for homeowners to use. Buffer committee members spoke at garden club meetings, golf course superintendent meetings, landscaping seminars, and other public venues to espouse the benefits of proper landscape design and plant health care management techniques. Demonstration seminars were also provided.

Environmental leadership

Golf course superintendents can and should be leaders in the field of environmental stewardship. Offering our services to the community is one of the best ways to give back. We can also enlighten the general public on how modern golf courses are managed.Many homeowners and fellow committee members are unaware of the environmental commitment it takes to run a golf course. The goal is to change people’s perception of our work in a positive way. Our involvement with local watershed organizations has had many benefits including:

  • Assisting in the design and construction processes to address environmental concerns
  • Providing outreach and education opportunities with assistance and guidance
  • Enhancing relationships with watershed and other conservation groups
  • Providing opportunities for community service

Watershed campaigns

Being proactive with a watershed group can help ensure that water rights and water quality issues are presented accurately for the golf courses located in the watershed. Being reactive could mean challenges for the course. Involvement may also identify grant monies associated with the Clean Water Act, non-point source pollution, stream restoration projects, and other watershed protection initiatives from the federal or state governments. Bayville Golf Club’s involvement with the watershed groups has made the course more compatible with the environment. The resulting community awareness about Bayville Golf Club has made a difference. Our campaigns have helped promote a healthy relationship with local advocacy groups, the community, and the environment.

Learn more about Bayville Golf Club.